The Fly: A Short Story

It started when I woke up and heard the fly in my room. I did everything I could. I read, I meditated, I sang, I did push-ups, I typed on the keyboard, I even tried praying to relieve the burden of this fly. The fly was still in the room. Sometimes it would stop flying and land somewhere. These were peaceful moments. Most of the time, though, it flew around. Those were hostile moments. I left the house for a while and forgot all about the fly. When I came back I remembered. It was still alive and flying! I tried a few times to kill it, but I could not manage to do so. It’s hard to kill a fly by simply clapping your hands. Flies are elusive and exasperating insects.

I could have left again, let the fly buzz around until he got tired or died. I couldn’t do it. This was my house, not the fly’s house. It was cold and rainy, a day to sit contentedly inside and watch the rain fall down, not a day to be outside. But I could not be content with the fly in the house, it brought me to the end of my patience, I really couldn’t stand it. I couldn’t stand it or sit down with it in the house. I could do nothing but become increasingly irritated. I sat and tried to read again. Nothing doing. I could do nothing but think about the fly. It had completely taken over my attention. There was nothing else in the world but the two of us, the fly and me. I thought about why the fly had come. There had to be a reason. Flies don’t just appear out of nowhere without a reason. I thought about it some more and could not think of one single reason why this fly was in the house.

Was there no reason for this fly? If there was no reason for this fly, then did that mean there was no meaning in this situation? The dread!

The apparent meaninglessness of the entire situation filled me with horror and forced me into action. The meaning here would reveal itself, I was sure of it. I needed to be sure. I would learn what this whole thing meant by killing the fly. From the death of the fly the meaning of the situation would come to life. But first, the fly must die!

I went again into action. This time the fly would not get away. I followed him into the bathroom and shut the door. There, let him fly around in there, I thought. That settles things.

Before too long, I had forgotten about the fly and settled in to read. Sometimes I would stop reading and bask in pure contentment: the peaceful stillness of the day, the mix of rain and snow gently falling on the window, the warm cup of tea in my hand, I needed nothing else. The simple pleasures of life! What else was there to need? Needing was for unhappy people, the ones who were always intolerably irritated with absurdly minor issues.

Intolerable was the word. The irritability of other people always exasperated me to no end. How could anyone be so irritated! And how truly minor the issues were that made them so upset. I didn’t see a bit of sense in it. There was no meaning in it at all. What disturbed everyone all so much was as pointless as a fly. I was glad to be rid of those constantly irritated and discontented people, glad to be rid of all my burdens and worries. As the cold rain fell down on the window outside, I felt arise within me the warmth and sunlight of true contentment!

Soon, having drunk a pot of tea, I found I needed to go pee. Serenely, I opened the door and walked in. Immediately the fly flew out. How quickly the mind forgets of its troubles!

I forgot right away about having to pee and went to chasing the fly for a second time. Again, I tried to trap it in the bathroom, but it was too smart for that, so I was forced to look for another way to remove the loathsome pest from my presence.

I chased it for a quarter of an hour around my 350 square foot room. In such a small room, with such a small insect, such a vast and endless problem! It was madness, and it needed to stop. I chased it above the sink, I chased it under the table, and finally I chased it to my bed where it stopped flying.

I stood on the bed. The fly was in the far corner, on the ceiling, and I could tell it was afraid. The fear in the room was palpable. I stood there and waited, my entire attention fixated on the fly. This time it would not get away, I was sure of it. I thought about what I would do if it got away. I could not fathom the possibility. It was simply unimaginable to me that the fly would live for another minute. I pushed the thought out of my mind.

The fly took off again, while I clapped frantically like an epileptic at a piano concert. Did it hear my clapping? More to the point, did it understand the intent of my clapping? Above all I feared that the fly was under the misperception that I was clapping in support of it. On the contrary! I despised its very existence! I wanted to nip that misunderstanding before the whole situation got completely out of control. I wanted nothing more than to end this fly’s life, to kill its buzz, and not to give it my support by clapping, that senseless human form of expressing non-verbal approval. But the only way I knew to kill it was to clap it between my hands. That would be the last clap and the final curtain. Whatever misunderstanding my clapping might bring about would not matter after the fly was dead.

With the rage and fury fitting for such a critical and crucial moment, I roared at the fly,

“I clap to kill you, not to praise your efforts!”

Still, the possibility that my intent might be miscommunicated was too grave a threat. The complexity of the situation made my head hurt. I wanted the fly to know I was trying to kill it, and not be under the misperception that I was trying to express to it my approval. I wanted it to be in fear in its last seconds, not basking in unwarranted and nonexistent admiration.

I picked up a book. This way there could be no misunderstanding. I would kill the fly by use of the book. I tried that for a while without success. No, that could not be the way. I could clap the fly faster than I could hit it with a book. Anyways, what if the fly imagined that being killed with literature was more flattering than being killed by flattery? Misunderstanding be damned! It did not matter how this fly died as long as it was very shortly dead.

Well, what can I say? Something changed in the manner of my pursuit. I became more focused, more driven. I readied myself, I zoned in on my target. It became more of a chess match and less of a bullfight.

The fly took off away from me, and I took a desperate lunge. I clapped one time, opened my hands, and saw the fly fall below me to the ground. It twitched once, twice, three times, and then it was still. It would no longer torture me with its insane buzzing.

I took a deep breath and sat down again. Outside everything was the same. The mix of rain and snow was still falling gently on the roof, the trees shook gracefully in the wind, and the deer and coyotes roamed the hills. I waited for the contentment to come back, the way it had been hours before when I had forgotten about the fly in the bathroom. I waited to bask in the glow of a task completed, a job well done.

But something was not right. Why did I not feel more alive now that the fly was dead? Where was the freedom from every care, the loosening of all my burdens that I was sure would come when the fly was gone? I was free from the fly’s odious existence, so why did I not feel free? I had been sure the reason the fly had come into my life was because of the freedom I would feel after its death. But I felt no freedom! The dread!

In the fly’s absence I could still feel its presence. In death its hold on me was even stronger than it had been in life.

I waited.

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“Getting There from Here”

You can get there from here,
it is not so far away.
Though you might travel for many years,
lost and confused on lonely desert byways,
a fierce light in your eyes that shields you slightly from the depths of your own despair,
your tender heart struggling madly against going cold,
your face sheltered from the sweltering sun,
now cursing the day-world and your broken and beaten self,
now brought to tears by the full moon that guides you somewhere else.

What is it you are searching for, my nomadic companion?

You can get there from here,
it is not so far away.
Though you might take to the seas,
captain ships to far-off lands searching for some forgotten Eldorado,
in desperate pursuit of the intense and exotic,
lustful for anything that smacks of adventure,
blind to all you see that lacks novelty,
your voyages always getting longer, riskier, farther-flung.

What is it you are searching for, my seafaring companion?

You can get there from here,
it is not so far away.
Though you might work non-stop for many years,
spend a lifetime pulling your way to the top,
pulled by the allure of skyscrapers and penthouses,
taken up and away by elevators and escalators,
taken hold of by the image of your self glimpsed high above
blind to what holds your unseen self far beneath.

What is it you are searching for, my ambitious companion?

You can get there from here,
it is not so far away.
Though you might spend your life in pursuit of love,
urged on by impulses more powerful than you will admit,
seeking in physical union the dissolution of your separateness,
and a joyful reunion with and return to wholeness,
looking to the future to give you back what you had in the past,
looking for a lover to provide the missing piece you feel you lack.

What is it you are searching for, my love-hungry companion?

You can get there from here,
it is not so far away.
Though you might spend your life running from love,
avoiding life and its uncalled-for difficulties that you do not understand,
looking to move away from rather than toward,
seeking peace by escaping conflict,
keeping to yourself in your secured mind where others cannot hurt you,
fortifying yourself with knowledge others do not understand,
and refusing to let a single anguished plea seep out from your fragile soul.

What is it you are searching for, my elusive companion?

You can get there from here,
it is not so far away.
Though you might spend your life seeking to understand,
your pen moving furiously along the page,
your thoughts moving frantically along in your mind,
your need to express yourself forever growing,
your curiosity always aflame, your yearnings always unfulfilled,
always overlooking what is close by and drawn to what is afar,
what is over there, absent, ever elusive,
drawn to some invisible force just beyond the visible horizon that pulls you in and holds you still,
a force you might grasp for a second and try to hold onto,
a force that lets you go if you won’t let go.

What is it you are searching for, my scribbling companion?
You might find it,
and you might not,
but know that it is not so far away.

You can get there by being here.

“A Still-Moving Stream”

I sit under a tree near the Prescott airport,
next to the intersection where willow creek road ends and begins,
on a warm January afternoon.
I listen to the cars as they slow down to a stop at the light,
to the pause while the light is red and the cars are at rest,
and to the cars as they start up again once the light turns green.

With the tree at my back and the sun on my face,
I just sit there and listen and hardly move.

The cars at ground level slow down, stop, and start up again,
while a plane above flies on until it arrives at its destination.
Some of the passengers on the plane drift off into sleep
as the pilot prepares to lift off into flight,
sleep while the plane is in the air,
and wake up again once the plane touches ground.
The passengers in the plane drift off, sleep, and wake up again.

I just sit there and listen and hardly move,
feeling the tree at my back and the sun on my face.

The clouds are wisps, languid and fluid,
floating along like driftwood in a still-moving stream,
moving on at whatever pace the stream moves on.
Today the stream is still-moving.

The cars as they slow down
sound like the water in a stream
after it has passed through some rapids.
After passing through the rapids,
the water slows down and becomes a still-moving stream.

Feeling the tree at my back and the sun on my face,
watching the cars move from east to west,
and the planes move from west to east
I can do nothing,
I can think of nothing I would rather do
than sit here and listen and hardly move.

“Coming to Believe”

A father I know is temporarily separated from his daughter, physically.
He wants to be with her but is unable to
until he is able to be with himself,
until he is able to see himself as he is
and come to terms with all he sees.

He is a loyal and loving father to his daughter,
wanting to provide for her, in his words,
provide a home for her, a place of belonging.

He longs to hear her first questions,
to be overcome by the innocence and purity in her voice,
her heart overwhelmingly open to life and all its possibilities,
wholly receptive in a way that can open his heart,
that can allow him to see that same innocence and purity in himself,
that same divine openness,
those same qualities I feel in him
when he speaks of her.

We all see in others what we cannot see in ourselves.
What he loves in her is what he would love in himself,
if he could see it.
The love I perceive in him is the same love that is harder to perceive in myself.
We are not so alone as I have often thought.
In our heads we feel alone
but in our hearts we do not believe it.

And deeper still, deeper even than the heart,
what is it that we believe?
Do we believe that there is no need to know exactly what we believe in?
Do we believe that we can be okay
with not knowing, with not having, with not doing?
Do we, or do we not, believe?

This father who is a friend of mine,
in these months of being separated from his daughter,
is learning how to be a man
before he can be a father again,
is becoming better able to live life
without needing life to go differently,
is coming to believe.

“Prayer Late at Night”

My prayer tonight is for the lonely to touch their loneliness,
for the empty to wholeheartedly feel their holes without filling them,
for the lost to find themselves connected with their lostness,
and for the confused to uncover hidden clarity beneath their confusion.

I pray tonight for those in the dark to stay there and listen,
for those running out of time to arrive at the timeless present,
for those running from themselves to finish the race and begin the work,
and for those weeping to hold nothing back.

Tonight my prayer is that the dying live and the living soar,
that the sleepers dance and the dancers dance more,
that the seekers settle down into the mystery of the night,
and the settled seek Chaos and bask in her radiant light.

“I Am Here Now”

It is raining in the high desert of Arizona,
a day for drinking tea and looking at the sky,
a day for remembering other rainy days:
in the hurricane’s eye on Delaware’s shore,
biking down the west coast of Ireland during an August shower,
sheltered from some late spring storm by wizards and porches.

A day for remembering other days,
while not wishing for another day,
whether gone by or to come.

I am here now experiencing what is here.

I’ve so often wanted things to go differently,
haven’t you?
I’ve wished it could be a different day, and I a different person,
that it be a future day, and I a past self,
that I could go back and re-live or re-do some day from long ago.

What a gift, then, for a day
to be grateful for,
to wonder at,
to be in.

I am here now experiencing what is here.

The temperature drops,
and the rain turns to snow,
falling to landed grace,
blanketing the earth with heavenly beauty.

What comes down can’t always go back up.
The snow falls and stays fallen, sits there, melts and fades.
The snow falls and rests on the ground yet keeps falling,
is on the ground and in the air at the same time,
is resting and falling at the same time.
Something in me soars to meet the snowflakes,
while I rest with my back on the ground,
watching them fall to meet me.

I am here now experiencing what is here.

Many times when I had been falling I wanted to climb,
when I was climbing I dreaded the fall,
when I was resting too much I needed movement,
when I was moving too much I needed rest.
Not today.
Whatever I am doing right now is what I need to be doing.

My mind moves with the same easy movement of my breath
as my body rests.
My spirit climbs by some mysterious pull
as the snow falls.
Resting or moving, falling or climbing,
It makes no difference to me.

I do not need things to go differently today.
I am here now experiencing what is here.

Grand Canyon snow

“Being The Dance”

When the music moves me,
I can’t help but move myself.
Sometimes the body has to move
to make way for the soul.

The music lifts it out,
my dance a wordless shout
that it is
here, there,
in, out,
above, below.

The dance:
so fervent, so wild,
and yet so much like
stillness sinking in and
drifting out.

So much like the stillness in me
meeting the strength in you.
Still strength,
the power in not doing,
is still strength.

The dance not a doing but a being,
a being dancing,
stilled in movement,
being the dance.